Harry Heron, a retired Realtor, civic leader and former Santa Barbara city councilman, died Dec. 19 at Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care’s Serenity House. He was 99.

Harry Heron, 1912-2011

Harry Heron, 1912-2011 (Heron family photo)

With his late wife, Jeanette, Heron established Heron Realty in 1948 and was involved in Santa Barbara community projects and philanthropy for decades.

Ed Heron, a Santa Barbara Unified School District trustee and Santa Barbara Partners in Education board member, was by his father’s side at the time of his death and wrote an obituary to share the story of the elder Heron’s almost century-long life:

Born in Flint, Mich., in 1912, Heron was the youngest of Joe and Daisy Jane Tarrant Heron’s four sons. He left high school to attend a General Motors Institute of Technology machine shop class, where he later taught, and he worked as a plumber’s helper during the Great Depression alongside his father and older brother.

Heron worked for Buick Motors, AC Spark Plug and Fisher Body, where he was made supervisor of the tool department for machinery used in 60-ton tanks during World War II. After leaving General Motors in 1945, he owned a tire company in Pontiac, Mich., and started an extended vacation around the country with his wife, Jeanette, and three young sons.

Joy and Harry Heron at Harry's 95th birthday party in 2007.

Joy and Harry Heron at Harry’s 95th birthday party in 2007. (Heron family photo / Vita-Bella Photography)

The family visited Santa Barbara, which had only 35,000 residents at the time, and Heron bought a gas station and tire business at the intersection of Micheltorena and State streets, now the site of Community West Bank, 1501 State St. The purchase prompted a cross-country move to California, but only six months later, Heron and his wife sold the automotive business. They both got their real-estate licenses and in 1948 established Heron Realty, which was a great success. Jeanette passed away in 1994 after the couple had been married for 58 years.

Heron was a member of the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors for 63 years, and was named Realtor of the Year in 1953 and association president in 1954. He also served as an honorary president of the California Association of Realtors and as a chaplain for four years.

Over the years, Heron gave back to the Santa Barbara community through service and philanthropy. He credited the Salvation Army in Michigan for providing the basis for his Christian life, and he created a fund for the Flint, Mich., Salvation Army Band, which provides scholarships for children going to band camp. He enthusiastically supported the Partners in Education program, Computers For Families, and was an active supporter, with his second wife, Joy, of the Santa Barbara Symphony.

“Harry lived to be almost 100 by the simple philosophy that, ‘If you make the right choices, good things will happen,’ and to ‘not worry about things you can’t control,’” Ed Heron told Noozhawk.

At the new Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, two offices in the William E. Simon Sacred Space will be named for Joy and Harry Heron, and the gift shop will be named in honor and loving memory of Jeanette Heron.

Heron was a life member of the Santa Barbara Host Lions Club, a founding director and 18-year board chairman of the former City Commerce Bank (which, through a series of mergers and acquisitions, is now part of Rabobank), and a Santa Barbara city councilman representing the Samarkand area in 1957 and 1958.

He led the effort to establish the Samarkand Retirement Home in 1956 and was recognized for his 35 years of active board membership in 1990.

“It is written that ‘without Harry and his efforts over many years,’ Samarkand would not exist today,” Ed Heron said.

Heron and his wife, the former Joy Gebhardt, had been together since 1996 and lived at The Samarkand since 2001.

His vacation across America was no fluke; Heron loved traveling and took more than 40 cruises to every part of the world, most of them after he turned 70. For the last 15 years, he had been completing a family genealogy after getting an Apple computer and taking an SBCC Continuing Education computer class.

Harry Heron greets a great-granddaughter at his 95th birthday party in 2007.

Harry Heron greets a great-granddaughter at his 95th birthday party in 2007. (Heron family photo / Vita-Bella Photography)

Heron is survived by his three children, Robert, Edward and Fred; 14 grandchildren: Vance, Kyle, Brett, Tammara, Creigh, Devon, Courtney, Darian, Sabrina, Kelly, John, Molly, Rick and Valerie; and 31 great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his wife of 15 years, Joy; her daughters, Cynthia and Judy; and grandchildren Danielle and Dennis.

Donations in Harry’s memory can be made to the Harry and Jeanette Heron Scholarship Fund, c/o California Association of Realtors, 525 S. Virgil Ave., Los Angeles 90020; to the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital Foundation, P.O. Box 689, Santa Barbara 93102; or to Sansum Clinic, P.O. Box 1200, Santa Barbara 93102.

» Click here to make an online donation to the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital Foundation.

» Click here to make an online donation to Sansum Clinic.

Services will be private.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at gmagnoli@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.